Capita's anti-competitive practises
Strange how everyone seems to be looking at Capita all the time. Lets not forget that Bromcom used to hold the "rights" to attendance recording using wireless and made everyone use their option or else.
The two cases being referred to here are from a legal stand point are completely different, and at no parallel whatsoever. We hope to put the record straight for the benefit of EduGeek forum members.
A. Bromcom Computers Plc/Frontline Technology Ltd & patent case:
Frontline held a patent for a wireless registration system that was filed in 1992.
There was no question about the legitimacy of Frontline holding the patent. After thorough examination by the European Patent Office (in Munich) the patent was duly awarded.
By its very definition a patent grants to the patent holder ’exclusive rights and protection' for a set period (typically 20 years). This is done in exchange of providing full details to the public (sufficiency test) as how the new invention works. Therefore, a patent holder should not be accused of being 'restrictive' or 'monopolistic' when they are executing the exact purpose and the rights that they legally acquire through the patent.
Any third party that deems the patent as being to the commercial disadvantage of its market is allowed to challenge that patent in the High Court on grounds of invalidity.
Bromcom/Frontline wrote in 2002 to the Secretary of State Right Hon Estelle Morris to clarify the department's position. The reply received was totally supportive: defending the fact that Frontline "had the right to assert its rights" (please see the attached, document 1).
The DfES made two attempts to attack the patent in question. However, on both occasions the High Court ruled that they had failed to revoke Frontlines patent. A settlement was reached at the end of 2005 and the DCSF now owns the patent. http://eduwight.iow.gov.uk/curriculu...mentletter.pdf
B. Capita and OFT Cases:
It wasn't until 1999 that Bromcom for the first time approached the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in order to achieve interoperability between Bromcom’s EARS system and Capita’s MIS in schools. The OFT acted swiftly and instructed Capita to provide the necessary information and collaboration required for this (please see attached document 2).
Later, when Capita announced in 2001 the imminent release of its SQL version of SIMS software, Bromcom approached Capita for the continuation of the arrangements that the OFT had set up. In Bromcom’s view Capita demanded unreasonable commercial terms, creating a restriction to free competition. Bromcom had no alternative but to resort to the OFT again. The OFT investigated this matter and directed Capita to provide a Voluntary Assurance (VA) - which came into effect in May 2002 – (please see attached document 3).
The principles established in 1999 and 2003 were that Capita is dominant in the school MIS Market. This means that they are subject to obligations under the Competition Act. They must act in line with their obligations so that they do not undermine the market for other competitors.
The recent complaint to OFT:
In the recent complaint, Bromcom has put evidence to the OFT that Capita is falling short in adhering to the VA of 2003, and that Capita has allegedly adopted a wide range of commercial practises that are anti-competitive.
Comparison / paradox of two cases ie Patent vs OFT:
It should be obvious to any reader that the two cases have no parallel to each other whatsoever, other than the same market space and the companies involved. In the Patent case Frontline had legitimate rights to the patent that was attacked. In the OFT cases against Capita: the practices that Capita are alleged to have adopted run contrary to their obligations under the Competition Act.
Having said the above, it should be noted that none of these legal matters have affected the working relationship between Bromcom and Capita which is underpinned by OFT 2003 VA and Technical Partnership agreement.
I can't see how you could say Capita is anti-competitive. There are plenty of company's making money off SIMS. You yourselves have made an app that pretty much replaces the SIMS front-end.
I can get full documentation on SIMS, can I get it for Bromcom?
Grrr... fed of of people moaning about someone else being bigger.
You seem to have missed one important part from the response above. Namely
This means that they are subject to obligations under the Competition Act. They must act in line with their obligations so that they do not undermine the market for other competitors.
Once a company is determined as being dominant in a market, they are legally obliged to behave in a certain way. If you disagree with this, and see it as 'moaning about someone else being bigger' then you should be pushing for a change in the law - but be warned, the law protects consumers and businesses from many possible bad behaviours. Without that law, Capita would not have to provide any documentation as instructed by the OFT. There would be no obligation for interoperability etc... So, we'd be in a *much* worse situation than we are now IMO.
perhaps of the the questions that may be interesting to ask is how many companies are actually involved in this move that Capita are being anti competitive. I read with interest the Bromcom have presented their case to the OFT as stated in SIMAY's response but how many other companies that are also listed as either Partners or Technical Partners have also complained to the OFT.
Whenever this issue arises it seems that only certain companies are mention both here and in the press which is interesting given the number of companies that are listed as partners at all levels on the SIMS website.
It's all legal guff. Bromcom moan about Capita and SIF, but they have a SIF (ish*) solution (PX), they are working on the SIF project, but I don't see Bromcom. I really wish they would stop having a go and just get on with it. It costs us, the end users money. It's alright Capita saying it doesn't, but it must do in the end.
Only way I see a MIS supplier being anti-compentive is if they say, if you leave us, you won't be able to pull the data across. I've heard of many schools leaving SIMS for project X,Y,Z and they've moved it all across (ok, most of it, I except some bits may need to be re-entered manually).
I guess I won't stop moaning until Bromcom stops having a go at Capita (unlikely) and Bromcom has a true** 3rd party linking into it.
* Yes, I know PX isn't a true SIF solution, but as I understand it, if it was it would be like plugging your MIS into a hub. IE it goes to everyone and there isn't any security
** IE not a sister company or such, with full support.
The final bullet point BECTA are going to consider is the remote hosted solutions.
To me this seems slightly like them concluding that remote hosting solves many of the issues about transfering data between establishments/children services listed above it before they have carried out the review!